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The Slides of March

It was not exactly the stuff of Little Johnny’s tournament dreams. Of the seven ACC teams that marched off to do battle in the NCAA Tournament, four were home after their first game, while a fifth was bounced in its second. To add insult to injury, both of the league’s NIT entrants were gone by late Saturday morning. downarrowWhat was that conference RPI again?

As the conference lurches into Sweet Sixteen, only tournament regulars North Carolina and Duke are still around. That is not particularly surprising, since neither is exactly plowing new tournament ground, although Duke had spent the last couple of years specializing in early exits. What did raise a few eyebrows among the basketball chattering classes is the lightning speed with which the rest of the league called it a Spring.

The ACC’s bracket-wrecking program began Thursday when Clemson managed to continue Oliver Purnell’s 0-for-the tournament record. For all of the good work Purnell has done at Clemson, building a very credible program at a place where doing such was considered impossible, his teams continue to look a lot better in December and January than they do in February and March.

Friday brought Florida State flunking its first tournament test, although FSU prez TK Wetherell was quick to claim that the defeat should not be counted against the record of Bobby, and a quick denuding of the ACC’s Midwest representation. During a day where following most every display of that Heel and Devil getting chummy under an umbrella was the news that another ACC team had lost, the absolute worst performance by a conference team, at least in the big tournament [the little one was to produce an even bigger laid egg], belonged to Wake Forest. The Deacons stunk up all of South Florida with a miserable showing against a 13th seed. Not too good, Deacs!

As we sit back and observe guys named Teague, Johnson and Aminu test NBA waters and wonder exactly what manner of team coach Dino Gaudio will send to the floor of the Joel next November, it is difficult not too ponder nagging questions about Gaudio. s-torbushHe gives every indication of suffering from Torbush Syndrome, which often afflicts long-time assistants who are given the keys to the big office. The chief sympton of Torbush Syndrome is the appearance by the coach of being in over his head at the level of coaching in which he finds himself. Given the rapid decline of Dino’s team from what turned out to be an embarassing home loss to a Tech team that was the very definition of mediocrity on to the woeful performance against Cleveland State [Cleveland State?], it sure looks like a classic case.

Of the ACC teams that did manage to make it to the second round, Carolina encountered little opposition in its opener. Even with Ty Lawson held out so that the famous Tar Toe would have more time to heal, the Heels, as expected, steam-rolled the tournament’s feel-good story, Radford.

At the start of the season, there were many confident predictions that a team from the NRV would make the Big Dance. Few of those predictions claimed it would be Radford. Yet there were the Highlanders, dominating local news en route to the culmination of a Cinderella season that lasted until the clock struck noon at the Greensboro Coliseum. Maybe next year RU will catch a seeding break and open with Wake or Clemson. Even though they were squashed under the Heels, it was a great season for Radford.

There were a number of good stories that surrounded Radford’s spin around the NCAA dance floor. The best was who was there. Seth Greenberg rarely gets to see an NCAA Tournament game in person. He was afforded the opportunity when Brad comped him tickets. I’m sure Seth enjoyed himself, although resisiting the urge to charge to the Radford bench and shove Brad out of the way in order to mug for the television cameras must have been tough. It was a remarkable display of self control by Seth.

73553547TL058_NCAA_Second_RThat out-of-character restraint continued Saturday morning as Radford’s 19-point halftime deficit was bested by the Hokies, who went into the locker room trailing by 20. Seth made it through an utterly miserable first half without engaging in any of his usual sideline theatrics that prove so effective in catching the notice of the cameras. Maybe, like his team, Seth was seriously off  his game.

Seth rallied by charging an official to engage in technical-baiting and camera-hogging. So did his team, although in both instances it proved to be too little, too late. Tech’s jagged 09 season came to an end. Well, the good news is that we can now concentrate fully on the main tournament without any more NIT distractions.

We have a few days to rest and reflect on tournament brackets before the NCAA cranks up again on Thursday. My bracket doesn’t look too bad, especially when considering the carnage gloryfrom the Midwest, where favorites went down like Pickett’s men at Gettysburg. 14 of my 16 Sweet Sixteen predicted teams made it; the two that did not were naturally from the ACC, Wake and FSU. I did correctly determine that over a quarter of the standing sixteen would come from that Bestest Conference Ever, the Biggie E. I did not fare quite so well in forecasting that another quarter would come from the ACC.

Oh, well, my Elite 8 remains intact, as does my Final Four. The Slides of March haven’t hit me, yet, although my pick of Duke over Villanova looks to be a dicey one. The status of Ty’s Toe will go far in determing the correctness of my pick of Carolina to win it all, but this is why they play the games.

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